Airline safety – Sleeping pilots or equipment malfunction?

On 10/24/09 the New York Times reported that a Northwest Airlines jet, carrying 144 passengers, missed its destination by 150 miles.

When asked, the pilots deny having been asleep. What makes this event extremely disturbing, in the mind of this author, is that traffic controllers on the ground tried contacting the jet for over an hour with no response. Due to no communication between the ground and the jet for such an extensive amount of time, National Guard jets were prepared to chase the jet. Thankfully, it never came down to this.

The NYT quotes one of the pilots, “I can tell you that airplanes lose contact with the ground people all the time.”

This author would like to respond to that quote by asking: “Really? For over an hour? Isn’t contact with the ground what in part informs pilots of air traffic in the area?”